Camp St. Bartholomew, or Camp St. Bart, or Camp St. Barf (coined August, 1973 by Heinrich S., an attendee from Berlin, one of the few mother country participants, who was equally lauded and vilified for that fact of origin) was a summer camp for German children. The camp was founded in 1813 by two French expatriate raspberry farmers, Luc and Henri, who held hands though they did not interlock fingers, who shared a bed though they did not share clothes. Both men despised Italians and knew that nothing was less Italian than German children. Both men made decisions based on spite or love, and this decision appeared to be the union of those emotions.
The farmers purchased sixteen acres in Sussex County, New Jersey, and the location remains the same to this day, though the camp was cut in half by the construction of Route 617 in 1955. Since that date a local elderly has been hired to caravan the children back and forth on a blue and white painted bus, spray-painted fresh every other summer. In 1975 a railroad-like drop gate was erected but a hunter barreled through the balsa wood, the impact knocking a six-point buck off his trailer and leaving the carcass in the center of the road. 30-40 German children looked in horror while a second-year counselor tried to move the deer with only the assistance of two wooden rulers from the mathematics room. The rulers snapped and the janitor, Hans, was called by mouth: a piercing, consonant-heavy scream that rumbled through the hills.
Hans lived year-round at the site, boiling celery soup at a constant rote. His stove was poor, though, and he often returned to find the light-green froth covering the floorboards. He would spend the next hour on his hands and knees, padding the broth out of the walnut wood while his wife slurped from the remaining slop. Hans moved the deer by hand, rolling him one revolution at a time, and when the children asked, in German, why he was not wearing the gloves that flapped in his back pocket, Hans simply nodded. He would never reveal, not until the final day of his employment (at his retirement dinner in the banquet hall), that he was actually Swiss, and that he hated Germans. He hated the endless supply of children who arrived with suspenders and high-cuffed khakis. At home that night his wife said his outburst was unfortunate. You love those children, she said. Don't blame the young for the sins of the old.
But they all seemed old, from their first breaths. A cycle of young children old, old children young. Most counselors were distinguished alumni. One held the record for the most slices of zwiebelbrot eaten in one hour. Another recited the lineage of kings from Otto the First to Frederick the Fair. At one board of trustees (all of them alumni also) meeting (April 1987) it was questioned whether the incestuous nature of camp administration helped or hurt those German children scurrying around on New Jersey grass, going for all-too-short laps around the small pond, or raising Wyandottes in cramped coops who often died halfway through the second months (the remains stacked in the basement of a barn on the edge of campus, another intentional oversight by Hans). The decision was simple: we are German. This is our camp. We are not the Boy Scouts. The Koreans have St. Kateri. The Italians had whatever.
This sentiment remained untested until Hans's retirement rhetoric, his critique of German imperialism and other sins. The administration branded him a senile fool but the children were heartbroken. This was Hans the janitor, the man whom the boys sought on the sly to pump clogged toilets clean; the man who spackled the mess hall after Heinrich S. punched through the sheetrock, angry at the consistency of his krapfen; the man who trimmed the grass with a burgundy reel mower, blades whirring in a whisper. And he was the one who betrayed them. So they snuck early one morning, socked feet on the parched ground, and collected eggs from the coop. They filled a wagon full but carried it at each end. Silence was necessary. They held the eggs in cold hands and then, in military unison, screamed something in German, and threw. The eggs battered the planks of the small house but there was no response. Not until Hans's robed wife walked outside, a woman they had never seen besides a random arm that swooped to take pie off a windowsill. The children did not focus on her face, but rather on the size of her robe. She tried to grab the robe, to bunch it around her form, but she nearly disappeared in the cloth. While the yolk crawled down the auburn wood they thought about what it meant to be German. And inside Hans dreamt: he could not move the deer off the road and gave up. He sat on the asphalt and said: I am sorry. I have nothing left to give.